Some of the history of 39th Australian Infantry Battalion

The Battalion was formed as an Independent Battalion, with a strength of 1500, in October 1941 from volunteers serving in 3rd Military District [Victoria] to serve in 8 Military District [Papua], as part of 30th Australian Infantry Brigade.  The other battalions in this brigade were the 49th & 53rd Australian Infantry Battalions. The average age of these 39th Bn members, who were both inadequately armed and trained, was a mere eighteen and a half years! 
 
Training, such as it was, occurred at Darley Military Camp [near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria] which they left by train on 26 December 1941 to embark on HM Troopship Acquitania in Sydney Harbourwhere a convoy was assembled. The convoy arrived in Port Moresby Harbour on 3rd January 1942 and, after dis-embarkation, the battalion occupied a camp site at the Seven Mile Aerodrome.

The battalion’s role was ostensibly to defend the aerodrome from attack by the enemy but in fact more time was spent as wharf labourers, and digging defensive positions, than was given to training in the skills of war! Their positions were regularly bombed and strafed by Japanese aircraft, based in Rabaul, Lae and Salamaua. The Japanese landed in Rabaul on 23rd January where they were opposed by the ill fated 2/22nd Battalion of the 8th Division. and in the landing on the north coast of New Guinea at Lae and Salamaua was virtually unopposed.

Acquitania
The Acquitania was too large to berth in Port Moresby so troops had to be ferried ashore by various means.
KOKODA On 7th July 1942 “B” Company became the first white troops to cross the Kokoda Track to provide a garrison on the aerodrome at Kokoda, pictured here as it was then…

On 21 July Japanese troops landed at Buna & Gona with the intention of crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges to capture Port Moresby which they would use as a base to attack Australia. On 22 July 12 Platoon of “B” Company became the first unit to face the Japanese in Papua.

They were forced to withdraw to Deniki but on 8th August they recaptured Kokoda but the requested, and anticipated, reinforcements were not flown in as promised and by 11 August were forced, by numerically superior numbers, to withdraw once again. The 39th Battalion is the only unit to have Kokoda listed as one of their Battle Honours

On 7th July 1942 “B” Company became the first white troops to cross the Kokoda Track to provide a garrison on the aerodrome at Kokoda, pictured here as it

On 21 July Japanese troops landed at Buna & Gona with the intention of crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges to capture Port Moresby which they would use as a base to attack Australia. On 22 July 12 Platoon of “B” Company became the first unit to face the Japanese in Papua. They were forced to withdraw to Deniki but on 8th August they recaptured Kokoda but the requested, and anticipated, reinforcements were not flown in as promised and by 11 August were forced, by numerically superior numbers, to withdraw once again. The 39th Battalion is the only unit to have Kokoda listed as one of their Battle Honours

They fought unsupported from 27 July -27 August 1942. When relieved at Efogi 5 September, by units of the 6th Australian Division AIF, their unit strength was 185 all ranks! 

After returning to Port Moresby they were reinforced with 800 new soldiers and again fought at Sanananda, Buna & Gona, recapturing the area permanently.  At Soputa, on final withdrawal there were only 5 officers and 27 other ranks! 

On 3 July 1943 the 39th Bn. was removed from the order of battle and ceased to exist as a military unit with little recognition or honour until some fifty years after the end of hostilities.

On 8th August 2006 the name of the 39th Battalion will be restored to the Battle Order when the Deployed Forces Support Unit will be re-named as 39th Personnel Support Battalion as a tribute to the part this unit played in saving Australia from a Japanese invasion in 1942.

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.